tv Discussion Focuses on Government Statistics CSPAN March 13, 2017 8:00pm-9:13pm EDT
regulatory proceedings because the time they are over, the market shifted radically. businesses don't have the luxury of sitting on decisions for six months and eight months and a year before they have to make decisions and i think the commission is committed to the spread of k commune communicators tonight"
>> good afternoon. >> i love this place for a lot of reasons but the reason i love aei is because only here is a conference on government statistics more popular than the rolling stones. [ laughter ] >> that's a great thing. this is a pop i ctopic that doe normally get headlines but let's face it, in a time the phrase alternative facts has entered the american lexicon is anything
more important that what we're doing to talk about today? at aei we're dedicated to the data are essential for evaluating success and failure of public policies and ensuring we're fulfilling the true purpose of our work, to help more people live a better life. we're delighted that aei is partnering with our neighbors the brookings institution to examine this critical subject and we're co-releasing a new paper on the topic and this is the kick off event for that co-issued paper. i want to introduce our panel today and after that our keynote speaker or my co-introducer, at least for this day. our panel today starts with martin of harvard and the president of nber, rebecca blank, the chancellor of the university of madison and ellen davis from the national retail
federation and david lynn hard from "the new york times" and the director of the hamilton project and senior fellow at brookings and finally, let me introduce robert ruben. robert is a founder at the hamilton project and leading voice on many economic issues. he's also the co-chairman of the counsel on foreign relations and bored of trustees and health system and many others. previously, as you-all know, he s set aside a private sector career and then as a 70th secretary of the treasury. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming robert ruben. >> for those of you frightened i would be the keynote speaker,
i'm not going to be the key. ♪ speaker. i have about 30 minutes of comments and i thought everybody would mind them fascinating but he didn't seem to think so. we'll pass on that. i'll make a few comments and in the first place, let me welcome you as arthur did and with the hamilton project, let me make three comments. firstly, aei and the hamilton project most likely have different views on a lot of subjects. but this collaboration recognizes what i think is an absolute imperative, there must be a commitment to the integrity to the intellect well integrity around facts, data, projections and like and there must be a commitment to rejkting political ideal log kig and tactical influence. another point to respect of them working together, is during the
collaboration of two organizations but makes a larger point, the onliy our political some work is if people work together and it's a nice model, small example of such a model of what it will take. this reminded me of the meeting with president elect clinton before the first term and what he said to us as we sat there was he was willing to fight all day long with whoever wanted to fight with him about policy but he never wanted to be in a position with the validity of his facts could be challenged. he lived by this for eight years and there were policy struggles and you may remember them, the fact is there was never a serious attack on the validity or integrity, if you will, of his facts.
and that, by the way, was not only important with respect to the decisions but also because markets and business community recognize that we were grounded in facts that were themselves approached with intellect weual intei integri integrity. it contributed to the decisions in markets and business and had a lot to do with the policies. finally, if we lose the absolute integrity, the absolute intellectual integrity of the facts, whatever it may be, we don't have any more reliable mornings for policy, for business or investment. i've been involved in the decisions making for a long decade. first in the private sector and later in the public sector. and i think the absolute
fundamental was to make sure you had facts right and then argue about, as i said a moment ago. you can argue about policies and whatever else it may be but make sure you have your facts right because if your facts are influenced by politics, by ideology and tactics, your decisions will be commenced faulty. senator daniel patrick almost surely said this best when he famously said and i quote, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. and that seems to me is the basis on which all of us should be involved in everything we do when it comes to decision making. let me end by saying and arthur think referred to this briefly, we unfortunately are in an environment today, more than unfortunately, dangerously, where there is a serious risk that political, ideology factors
will influence data by data i mean raw data, methologies, projections and the like. and it seems to me it is the obligation of appointed officials and elected officials to protect the intellectual and responsibility of the media, of analysts, and of policy organizations to hold our political system accountable for maintaining the intellect weual integrity of data and that's the point of the event we have today and with that, i'll turn the podium over to diane.
tank thanks for coming. business, governments and families must navigate the complexities with a world of new technologies and business practices. it's vital to have reliable info ma mansion to make informed choices. government statistical agencies provide an important source of this information. americans desire to collect data for the common good dates back to our founding fathers when james madison argue that reliable data on agriculture, commercial and manufacturing interests would allow congress to represent the interests of citizens morefectively. hard numbers would be useful as you can read in the madison quote on the screen in order they might rest arguments on facts instead of insertions and congesti congestion. it's perhaps not as well understood. the care and rigor with government data is collected
staffed by dedicated career civil servants and agencies spend less than one-fifth of 1% of the federal budget. what they do with this is extraordinary. their data collection is rigorous. operations of statistical agencies are conduct in accord with rigorous and binding procedures and operate in a transparent fashion, mistakes are promptly collected and invasions made to ensure the highest quality data are available. agencies frequently consult without side subject matter experts to refine and improve their measures. the statistical agencies are politically independent and appointees are few in number and they have very limited access to the data before it's publication. the entire culture of the statistical agencies is organized around protecting the security and confidentiality of data. data handled by staff on a need to know basis with criminal penalties in place for misuse of data.
statistical agencies promise confidentiality and survey data may no be used against individual respondents. our joint document we're relewising today highlights a portion of the breath and importance of government statistics to the economy and public policy. the public good provided by the statistical agencies is useful to businesses, policy makers and families. first to the business community, in this era of big data, businesses collect and analyze vast qualities that are own internal data to forecast sales and inventory needs and weigh decisions but a firm's own data are often not enough to paint a comprehensive picture and there is great value when complimented. comprehensive covering the entire u.s. and useful for benchmarking and supplementing businesses own data and consistent with many data series spanning decades allowing comparisons across space and
over time. in particular, data from the acs provides fine grain local information about a range offish sho -- issues from housing information. retailers make extensive use of the data. when deciding when and where to open stores and distribution centers. target and kroger in particular report they use the data to target taylor product mixes and advertisi advertising. it can be useful to find where workers can be found. this map shows the number of engineers by local area. we also see the share of the population that's elderly in a local area just one more example of the many ways that the data can be cut to provide detailed information across local areas. data collected on the distribution of h 1 b visas and from the burro of economic analysis as shown in this graph
demonstrating the increase in imports and total experts over time. we can break this down by sector, here showing we show the u.s. energy imports and experts over time including future projections. until recently, demand was such that the u.s. relied on large net imports of energy. over the past decade, domestic production of energy shot up aztecnoloa as technologies allowed and exports rose sharply during the 2,000s. experts will exceed imports by the year 2026. in addition, our highly efficient agriculture sector has seen sharp increases from grains to livestock since the year 2000. policy makers will benefit from a clear understanding of the economic impact of trade and great use to policy makers and timely collection allows us to
track important trends and evaluate public policy. ut oh. ut oh. is there a back up way to move this? michael? all right. so when it moves to the next, which is going to be a lovely picture of the unemployment rate -- you can follow along in your books. there are a variety of market health including payroll jobs count, unemployment rate and participate rate and more. the unemployment rate -- there we go. good. all right. the unemployment rate, the number of people falls during recoveries. the bos also produces a number of alternative measures. the u 6 rate and as well as
those who have part time work but would prefer full-time work. more comprehensive measure is higher than the traditional unemployment rate. bls data are used to track the vitally important recent decline in labor force participation rate and increasing share of children living in households without liiving parents and on children's well being and sparked conversations how to strengthen and reform the program. families gain insight from the data, too. especially around major life events such as choosing a college or choosing a major field of study. information on expected earnings by college major here or across
occupations can be useful when making decisions about college investments. to be sure, there are important shortcomings of federal data collection. we should absolutely strengthen the data collection but addressing limitations. for example a major limitation is we do not collect systematic evidence with criminal records. we also do a poor job of collecting information on the gig economy among other shortcomings. also of great concern is declining participation in surveys, increasing rates of refusal to answer questions and under reports of certain behaviors and augment survey data with administrative data with appropriate safeguards would improve the quality of data in a cost effective manner. will improve data quality and efficiency. so continuing to invest in federal data collection is important to business, to policy makers and to all americans. americans across the political
spectrum should recognize the importance of protecting the intellect weual integrity so ple feel free to join in the conversation on twitter with the hashtag gov data and join us for the twitter chat at 4:00 this afternoon, should be fun. now i'd like to invite our extremely distinguished panel for discussion about the vital role of government data. thanks. [ applause ] like the old joke i raised the statistical ability of mat
ma tig -- mat ma tih ma tigss. we are go g ing to talk to you about it and we also want to invite you-all to participate, my understanding is at some point we'll have cards circulating around. please write your questions down and include your name if you're willing and we'll involve you. i want to ask each of the panelist to give short opening remarks, i'll start with becky and come back to ellen and go down the line. what is nice about the panel is in becky and marty, we have two people that come from an academic background and have been deeply involved in government and people who can talk about the important businesses. for your opening remarks i would love to hear each of you talk about depending on your expertise is some combination of
why this data is good and why we should have faith in it and also, how it's used so becky? >> thank you. very few things that i would rather talk about. i'm delighted to be part of the panel and delighted with aei and brookings for putting the paper together. the united states for many years has been the goal standard for government data and we can't take that for granted and there are reasons that's true and let me mention four things we worked hard on this in country. and the first is accuracy of the data figuring how to do it right and constantly keeping methodology methods up to date and advising and doing research and one of the things people don't appreciate about the agencies is the extent to which they are constantly involved in that method research beyond just the actual collection and putting together the data.
secondly, the data has to be incredib incredible. it including not appearing to benefit. for instance, when we release things like gdp data, that moves markets and certain sections would load to get that data ahead of everyone else and make sure that data was ahead of everyone else is a major under taking and i can tell you having been at the department of commerce, the work that goes into but not a single person can story a file a second before anyone else is both a difficult project and a highly important one. thirdly, in addition to accuracy credibility, public availability, this is part of credibility but more than that. having people being able to get their hands on the data.
you can go in and look at the census da inta in a real way an it's a way to cross chuck and we go back and look and figure out maybe there was a mistake and maybe something was released wrong and maybe a question we could have asked better that type of public availability matters. lastly,liness matters. it of course, fights against accuracy and trade offs and deciding one reason we do three releases of gdp, right? and the first one we say up front is less accurate than the last one because it comes up fast fast faster. we spent decades and how do we do a better job.
now let me say one last thing, everybody knows how you use statistics to track the economy and guide policy and we talked about that. i want to make one other comment who don't fully appreciate and that's the extend which they drive for instance the unemployment rite is a trigger for unelement employment insurance and the cp iri determs how much the check will go up and by how much. drive the medicaid distribution to states and i promise that doesn't change. they want that updated in realtime and requires acs data.
similar similarly and driven by these data and accuracy matters and people understand many of the planning ways in which the data are used but used in realtime to distribute dollars and that's one of the things that makes keeping these data to a gold standa standard. while talking about stat, our industry uses data so much and so frequently, retail is the private sector, consumers represent consumers for gdp and spending and information is critical for industry and largeren cow me. one location and that's important because you might have a retailer with more access to data or met tricks but provides
party and small businesses trying to understand many things the same way a large business would and the final statistic is 32% of people got in from a retailer. understanding what is happening with em ploit. i w teen uneloquent ploimployment. from our perspective, really understanding the scope of government tata is truly important who we represent and make decisions on policy but to try to better understand and analyze what is happening from an economic perspective. the two different agencies with go to the most are department of
commerce data and retail sales data and burro of labor statistics to understand what is happening with employment trends but our industry looks at many different types of data sets to determine things like benchmarking and understanding local demographics, which die ann ta diane talked about earlier and factors that impact investment and product selection. we've been working on a number of initiatives over the last few years where we have used government data to help us articulate a narrative or better understand what could be happening so for example, the chief economist every year calls a number of different pieces of government data to forecast holiday spending and forecast annual retail sales. that is critical because there is a certain number of -- there is a lack of bias in government
data and longevity. it also helps us establish the role and the value of retail to the economy and employer, which is an important initiative for us and helps us examine consumer spending and help our industry understand how to make changes where shifts might be occurring and how to move forward there are a number of different ways that we look at this, the number of ways we use it and again to the earlier point, a number of ways large and small retailers are using government data to make better business decisions. >> thank you. >> one way to look if you're an investor and want to invest in a country or don't want to invest.
when i joined the imf, one of my colleagues went to an emerging market and discussed inflation was too high and said what would you like it to be? [ laughter ] >> and i think this tells you and illustrates not only that we were a pension fund eor hedge fund and have $1,000 to invest, which country do we want to invest? some emerging market or some data collection issues. they are helping tremendously but nevertheless, still have a number of issues with getting the data together and you can simply argue those countries most challenged on getting data together are paying a premium and borrowing cost in everything in financial market and stock market and exchange rate across
the board. they are paying a price for having uncertainty about what is going on. that illustrates well as an example as rebecca said the u.s. has always been the gold standard and we have known for a long time we have tremendous data in the u.s. relative to europe and japan and emerging markets and elsewhere to discuss what is the importance of this as you probably know too well in greece, we had a debate about this emerging markets to this day, debates what does the data show? so use that as an example why is this eloquent vent. when you take your 401 k, what other problems with emerging markets, political problems, problems with policy problems and this is a very real problem for investors in a very real certain way where this has a significant impact on the returns you get.
you can say i trust policy making but at the end of the day this is critical. not only domestic but you think about those not doing it right so the final point, we served good in the u.s. so what do we need to worry about, it's extremely important to think about your investment decision and 401 k and whatever you invest in. this is important about narratives and stories about what is going on is this company investing a good product? is this company having the right product? are we see thing sector grow if we buy an etf in health care? is that based on? all those become driven by what is the data showing and the u.s. has the lowest premium at all because we believe everything is
right to the fact we are opening the door ever so slightly to even have a conference such as this one is from an investor perspective and not just wall street but real money maechbing insurance company make decisions based on data. it is quite worry system we're having this debate at all unfortunatel unfortunately. >> marty? >> i'm a data guy. i'm not a producer but consumer of data. i look every day at the beginning of the day once it gets at 8:30 in the morning, i look at the releases from the bea or fed or others. this morning we got the unemployment insurance claims for the last week. a big drop. the lowest level during the period since the economy turned up, but in fact, according to some estimates, it's been two decades since we've seen numbers
as low as this. i look at these to get a better sense of where the economy is going. it's a habit i developed as i was chairman of economic advisors and needed to have an on going up to date sense of the data to talk about not just with the president but with other senior members of the administration. but i continue to feel the need for this data to feel the pulse of the economy. i need it because i write about economics because i talk to kinds about it and i teach about it and i couldn't do it without the kind of timely data we get from the government agencies. i think one of the most useful
things i did was to get our staff to create online access to these daily data. anybody in the world can sign up for this data release. we don't make the data, we simply take the data from the fed or bea and make it available as soon as it becomes and on going inventory of releases so you cannot only see the current number but other numbers that have have been coming out. i think that makes for a much better informed group of researchers, peep in the business world who for nothing, for free can draw upon the data and i teach a course at harvard
called american economic policy and i say to this large group of under graduates they should understand these data and so when numbers come out, i take a minute or two to say something about the number that has come out that day and to encourage them to go to this website where they can find the same kind of data. but i also remind them that they have to be very careful about interpreting the data. they don't always mean what they seem to mean. one of the areas i've been thinking about in detail in recent years is the way we measure real growth rates, real growth of gdp and productivity
and the agencies involved do n p amazing job of collecting data following a strict protocol but when they go from nominal gdp, output to real output, there are serious problems in it which cause on under estimation of that. i'll come back to that later in our discussion. >> let's talk about issues and weaknesses that cut across multiple different day to series and i would be interesting whether you agree with the list and if you do, what you think is the most important. diane mentioned non-response. that's a serious problem. if you look at americans willingness to respond to polls it has plummeted.
easiest way to think about this is if you see a 1888 number on your cell phone, do you answer it? no, you don't. it's not just technology. even if you control for reaching people, people's willingness to answer is declined. a lot of data we're collecting is being collected by the private sector rather than the public sector which has some advantages because it's good at a lot of things but the private sector isn't going to release it. facebook has enormous amounts of data that would be very useful for society to have but damaging to facebook or google's business interest so understandably they don't release it. third thing i would say is a sort of strain of anti intellect in society. it's quite clear now. there has always been conspire sees on the right and left that
the data moved up. we had jack well k it just clearly false and you have respected ceo on television making this argument and of usually, we have a president who on a relatively regular basis makes statements about data that are also simply false whether about voting or elections or murder rate or unemployment rate and seem there is is a general strain of anti intellect. how can you trust anything. we are protecting anything over the age of 25 and protecting the military and leaves a relatively small portion of the government that does all of this work. so that would be my list. i invite any of you to disagree with one of the four and say one
is most important or add an item i didn't put on there. >> i don't understand why you need to keep collecting weather data. this is a waste of money. you can get all of this on the weather channel. [ laughter ] >> of course, the weather channel uses weather data if there is anybody that doesn't know that. i heard somewhat similar comments about census data. i can get this online and google why do i need anyone collecting this? of course, we know where it comes from originally. there say huge lack of understanding out there. how this day to data permeates our lives. big data and big data not just
in the private sector and of very high free agaquency data. our ability to integrate that and figure out how to make that accessible and accurately use it in the less frequent statistics is i think an interesting question, as well. >> how much do you worry about funding? is it so small it will be not so much like scientific research that you think it will be safe or do you actually worry about whether we'll have the funds to collect this? >> well, i think there will be a ten tendency to think across the board. i think every part of every receiver of government funds thinks that of course they ought
to be an exception, whether it's the national endowment on the arts or nih, how can you cut those and all of these tend to be what economists call public goods. things where we can benefit prom it, where my benefitting from it doesn't reduce your benefits from it and there will be a ten tendency to lump them together. >> one data source, which is absolutely essential to everyone else because it creates the frame everyone else uses for surveys. it's not flat funding. it has an enormous cycle and ramps up to tens of millions of dollars and falls off quite a bit and we're at a point where the census has to ramp up and we're hitting that at exactly the point we're talking about freezes in terms of personnel and big budget cuts and discretionary side and there has
to be an understanding if we're serious, it has to have exceptions about that. >> yeah. >> for many investors, it's a bill deal because it gives information about what is going on. some of the problems with big data as great as it is is it's really private information. someone knows something and that's okay. you can be skilled but one example is there are a lot of people in hedge funds looking at satellite images of china, even of the u.s. to figure out is the manufacturing industry in china as strong as they say? are they moving trucks and containers around at the speed they are saying and use this as an indicator i think it is getting better or worse. this is proprietary information. you can certainly say that's a good idea. that's a bad idea but becomes the more pronounced this is private, the highest risk that this is no longer a public good and therefore not inside information to say that just comes with it a whole host of
problems if it is something those can get. >> do you worry in retail with the rise of big data there being a real separation between your larger members and smaller members? >> sure? >> the smaller members can't do this? >> yes and back to becky's point. if you look at large retailers, if you look what is happening now with the evolution of consumer spending to the web. retailers can tell you by the second how things are doing, the large ones who track. so from yes, there is disparity with the inpa strufrastructure understand and how quickly they can understand it versus how quickly we receive government data to either compliment or to negotiate what we're understanding and give a scale. so if home depot is seeing a huge increase in something but the larger housing sector isn't, that is an interesting trend for them to recognize but when there
is a gap, in understanding information you might misa window. i think for small businesses, you know, there is a real, this isn't to say large businesses don't value government data and use it differently than small businesses but from our perspective, a lot of the small retailers can really have access to data for then isn't something you need to pay a solution provider a bunch of money to find but leverage data that economists, that's credible and help them level the playing field between them and potentially different competitors. from our perspective, this is huge value and we're concerned. i think if you look at one of our big concerns is funding and funding is critical. if we're going to see us as a country value this data. >> it seems to me it's a really big deal. there is a chance, we don't know
for sure but chance it explains the polling misses in israel and in britain. overall polling is not huge but significant in states like beckys and pennsylvania. so it's a real by big day for census and politics and the long term i'll confess, it seems we're in a transition and polling and picking it up and we are all carrying around these things. it seems in the long term someone will figure out and the government will be able to use ways to survey people that i think will be at least as good. my being sort of a fuzzy-headed of t optimist about that? >> we're concerned about none response, as well. we need to collect information
differently than the past about different things. and, you know, i think to your point about of course we got how many americans don't have a home phone and we have to think differently and that lends to difficult decisions of we've never done it that way or make sure we have the accuracy of the data. from our standpoint, understanding and tapping that non-response issue is critical. >> i think it's also true that we got to move away from thinking the survey is the only way to do this because surveys are increasingly difficult and the merging of survey data with administrative data and much greater use of administrative data is important and houses don't move. i can tell you the you got a
response from every house but phones come and go and you have difficulty of knowing what your sample looked like out of the total population and that is where administrative data can be useful because you often do have relatively complete samples and you know whose in and out of the sample. >> would be of the problems with non-response, we want to know what the non-respondents would have said had they said something. so what the statistical agencies have to do is impute and answer this tome or we don't get a picture for the whole but it's hard -- i don't know enough about it to know how much is going on and how accurate is the imputation and i imagine most users of data don't realize when there is a missing answer and
they don't want to say how many weeks they worked last year because they can't remember. they aren't trying to hide anything or what their income was in the previous year, something gets gets imputed to d that may introduce error. >> one of the hardest things for the polling industry is there is no more randomization. you can't randomize e-mail addresses and phone numbers, it's not that meaningful. you can't randomize who responds. and so there are no more perfect answers and it has to be a mix of things. >> in the polling, we hear so we reweight it. >> right. >> there is so much room for
error to creep into the process. >> my colleague had ade delightl piece and realized there was one african american trump supporter in a poll that was moving the numbers because it was weighted so heavily. before we open it up here, i want to invite each of you to pound the table a little bit. what's a specific statistic what is a specific statistic you have concerns about accuracy? i know there are thoughts, i'll start with you. >> gdp and productivity and there is already a lot of uncertainty that goes into this and when we discuss the productivity slow down or sometimes say gdp is weak for awhile, some of this go away from one minute to the other. the way we thought about the
narrative is for the economy for the last several years can change when remissions come around. that's not an easy task to change how gdp has done but just to say that often you walk around with the certain story and not only financial markets, growth is weak but maybe we have just been measuring the wrong way and thoughts into what is the right way to measure. we have issues beyond this conference how you do these things and how these things are kak racalculate but if one thin more attention, how you calculate the trade deficit. if we need to go back and say reexports are something else that needs to be calculate and subtracted from exports rather than not from imports then you get a much bigger current account deficit and much bigger trade deficit and opening up a door to wow, if we can do that,
we can basically discuss any statistic. it is possible on who is answering the phone but marty mentioned to get some different calculations if you say that probably the sample was a little bit different than what we had and can be dramatic in some cases but at the end of the day, we are somewhat worried about the recent noises of what does the trade balance actually show and how those changes might come through. >> would you be okay if there was a change but it was still possible to the old series remain so it was possible to do comparisons or any big change is dangerous? >> the global context here is that the united nations has very clear standards how you do accounts. very clear standards for how you do everything on trade statistics so we can't just say that those other 190 countries in the world don't understand it. we can do it in the u.s. much better. you get back to the emerging markets of countries saying wow if the u.s. doesn't have to follow standards, why do i have as a president emerging market to follow those standards.
>> okay. thank you. >> marty? >> i'm concerned as i said my first remarks about what happens when we go from real gdp. i'm not concerned about presidethe problem of why we had a slowdown over the last couple of years. but what i'm concerned about is that over the long-run, the way in way the government as a technical matters goes from nominal gdp from nominal out put and real gdp leads to serious underestimates. i think that has a significant effect on how people view the way the economy is going and what the future holds and it has political as well just economic effects. so what do i mean by that?
when you look at the surveys that asks people how is your family done for the last five years or over the last decade, the general answer is pretty well. most would say they are better off than they were five or ten years ago. when you look at the official statistics they don't say that. they say that we have had no increase in real incomes for the middle quinn tile over the last two decades. so when people are asked not how did your family do but how is the country doing. the general answer is terribly. they now how well the family is doing. all they know is what they read in the press or hear from
politicians. the officials statistics say we have less than 1/2 growth of the last year. and there's been a shift in the higher income distribution and the economic report of the president said a couple of years the middle quinn tile didn't see any improvement at all in its real income. i don't believe that. so i have been studying what they do to estimate that. i think they tried to do the best job they can but they have a full methodology for do it. in two ways. one is what do they do about quality change. when product change how much do they decide how much better the product is how much real value there's in it.
they tonight hadon't have a goo doing it. the cost, not the value to the consumer or the user. and the basic rule is it's not 100% of all product, but in general if it doesn't cost more it didn't a better product. we know that's not right. when itme comes to new product, new drug or technology, they don't try to capture of the new products. so i think we're underestimating that number that roughly 1/2% per capita that number could be tries as charge or three times as large. we don't have a good fix on that. that's not just a u.s. problem. that's a problem for every
industrial country. if you look at imf suggested statistic kal methods, we're in the same state. i think that contributes to anti-globalization, it contributes to a kind of anti-business, i think it's unfortunate think -- i don't have the fix the problem. >> there's something that relates to something important from retail perspective. i talked about consumer spending
being -- consumer where is spending, how is that happening. anyone who follows the retail industry knows that the consumers shop differently than they have before. one of the challenges we have is that they have always categorized retail sales about where it occurs not the type of retailer who is selling the product. for example, walmart, when they reports its sale, they report by stores and commerce channel. when the department of commercial releases monthly sales they go into retail category. that's a challenges because there's a narrative, are stores
going go away, from our perspective if you look at what's happen not guilty retail, 8 of the top ten in the u.s. have traditional stores, walmart, macy's, home depot. what when you look at data you'll see inaccurate reflection of how the consumers are shopping today -- where the company is investigating and putting e-commerce cat goegory. that's a problem. if you look at department sales overtime, what you say is the department store sector is struggling, but look at e-commerce. that's why we need invest. go to amazon.
from our perspective, we understand why it was done this way in 1995 before the internet. but we need to understand and think about how to reflect the changing consumer behavior with what's happening today to understand what's happening with the consumer. >> i think there's huge gaps in data in higher education. taxpayer funds it to a great degree. if you have kid going to college, go online know what learn is, good luck. the way we capture graduation rate is so flawed.
we'll trust that everything is honkey dory. there's so much more to do. one more with advertisement, one of the best data we got was research who used tax return to give us an picture of who goes to what college. and that's data that we could not have had before and so one thing that's important in the area of big data is that the government continues to allow research access to data like that because it leads to important findings. one of the things we learn about equality comes from private universities getting access to public data. >> people have to trust your
ability to match data and keep the individuals private right to lose the match. that is is one of the things that stops a lot of data improvement. because people don't trust that. how do we communicate about this. it's a problem. >> privacy concerns are real. we don't want to go so far with it. here is one which is -- derek. should we have some sort of centralize thing. how can we make it easy to get data from the websites?
>> there's various private companies, data stream and others have said it's confusing, where did you get it. but you can get everything else. they have selling government data. >> for a lot of money. >> for a lot of money. it's absolutely right it's confusing. you can't respond, you can google it because it's not an easy answer to many of the problems. >> may be they will give it away for nothing. for nothing it s a good price. they go to data releases ands signs up and every day they get the daily release and have access to this list of all of the data. so if you want to go back to see what happened a week ago or a month ago, it's all there and
easily searchable. >> i see a number of people were omb in the room. i think it's one of the responsibility of omb to get more to release data with similar searchable tools. it's not something people are focused on. >> to me, bls is the best is putting it online in way to search. thank you. if you look unemployment rate or data it's easy and workable. two questions. what are the ramifications of the politicalization of the data, not data itself. how can we protect integrity of data. second question, the assault on data isn't new.
this kacalls for strategy -- ho can keep in fact and thriving in the public sector? >> we're at at moment in time where public institutions and the concept is under attack and it's not just people are suspicious of data, you see exactly the same thing happening in my area of public institutions where i have been told a number of times, you're not a public good. group or individuals should pay their full freight and get their return. public institutions is -- i don't think you solve the data problem. i wish i had an answer how to do it. we need more people in
leadership positions talk about the value of public institutions and of common good-type products. you don't hear that from leaders right now. >> should private sector users of government data be asked to pay for the data? >> it's almost impossible to do that. >> are there particular statistics that you are worried could be affected by funding cuts? >> acs which diane mentioned has been under attack for a while. detailed demographic data, if we lose acs, i don't know how local government makes decision. >> what should be changed about the 2020 census.
what do people think we should be adding to the census that we don't have it now? i find it remarkable we don't have about religion. >> so don't -- i think it's better that we don't. >> yes, core separation of church and state. >> i would go further than that. >> i would see that argument more strongly than i did six months ago. [ laughter ] >> there was talk about do itti doing it and i think it is talk about doing before. i was an advisory panel and i didn't like it then. it was argued you could ask
about religion and you shouldn'shouldn't ask about it in the census as well. >> and pew does phenomenal work. >> the race and ethnicity questions, those categories are gross. they don't categorize the way people think about themselves. they are taking on the question of who they should be. it's easy to use the old questions. they have changed overtime. so people can mark multiple categories. >> i think broken down by
ethnicity which strickes me as waste of money. for some men we take that -- >> is there any prospect of being able to see better in the past. once when i was reporting a story in salt lake city -- i looked up the old censuses about my wife's family and mine, and they are chilling because they were used to be taken by hand so i'm looking at handwriting speak to my wife's grandfather and children's great, great grandfather. could you imagine a time where it would be linked from parents to children which would allow a richer study of the history of american --
>> that has happened. there are a number of researchers -- we digitalized all census. you don't release that data until 70 years later. we digitalized the data. researchers gone in 1880 and link the children to the 1900s and look at changes in location and migration. it's great work on that. once it's digitalized, it's doable, but not easy. >> we have tradition of following people overtime. last question, someone asked what is favorite public data
center? >> we're not going to hold you to being -- you like too chat that you would encourage people to check out. what's underrating. >> i would have to say the weight of gdp but that would not be my favorite. >> from unemployment report, that's measured well compared to other things. unemployment reports shows you everything about wages, how many people got a job, what the unemployment rate is, the data has wealth of information about what the business cycle.
are we fully employment is this time for feds to raise rates. you can get so many answers to so many questions. this is advising pitch. it's outstanding. >> first friday what's the exception? >> 12th of the month. this month run on this coming friday being tomorrow. >> there's no question that earliest is the annual income and poverty statistics. i read through every chart looking at the data. this gives you all detail by different race groups, ethics, education levels, what's happening to economic well-being until country. it's makes for fascinating
reading. >> it's snapshot. >> you can only do that if you have price numbers to deflate by that's where we get in trouble with the real flk incomes and gdp if we are not adequately adjusting the price statistics overtime and for quality improvements and new goods. overtime we doesn't get the comparisons right. >> you can see where the incomes go up regardless what you think price change is. >> do you have a favorite? >> i would agree that the employment report is the most interesting thing. >> yes, employment report. >> please join me in thanking
the house intelligence committee has been asking for evidence to back up the president's claim that phones at trump tower were wiretapped by the obama plgs during the 2016 presidential campaign. at today's white house briefing sean spicer was asked about the allegation and what the trump administration was doing to help congress in its investigation. >> let's be clear, the department of justice was